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Defining Personhood: towards the Ethics of Quality in Clinical Care
  1. Steven D Edwards
  1. Centre for Philosophy and Health Care, University of Wales Swansea

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    Sarah Bishop Merrill, Amsterdam-Atlanta, Rodopi, 1998, 222 pages, £24.50.

    The concept of a person is frequently invoked in medical ethics literature. Typically, it is appealed to in order to sustain a claimed difference in moral status between one (usually human) individual and another. Thus the concept is appealed to in the context of debates concerning the justification of abortion, the withdrawal of treatment from humans in persistent vegetative states, and the extent of our obligations to the severely cognitively impaired. Many contributions to these issues attempt to set out defining features of personhood, usually in the form of a list of necessary and sufficient conditions.

    In this book the author is critical of, and rejects, such attempts. Her aim is to identify a number of “distinctive features” of personhood which will not constitute a set of necessary and sufficient conditions of the concept. The strategy by which these distinctive features are to be identified is through a survey of the …

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